Lafarge concrete helps provide new home for Darwin plants
- 08 May 2011
- Company & Industry News
PLANT specimens collected by Darwin during his voyage on the Beagle have found a new home in a landmark building constructed with Lafarge concrete.
The pressed and dried samples, part of a bank of more than a million, are being housed at the Sainsbury Laboratory, Cambridge University's new state-of-the-art plant research centre.
Aptly located in a corner of the university's Botanical Garden the Ł80m centre is a two-storey angular structure formed from virtually seamless concrete slabs intercut with limestone columns and huge glazed windows.
Some of the world's top botanical scientists will use the space, designed with lab rooms, support areas, meeting spaces, seminar room and a publicly accessible ground floor cafĂ©.
A third of the building is underground forming the environmentally controlled University Herbarium, the location for Darwin's specimens.
The project, now completed and due for an official opening later this year, presented a raft of challenges to realise the architects vision of solidity and strength combined with space and light.
Fundamental to this was Lafarge's decorative concrete Artevia, 2100m3 of which, tinted with 20 tonnes of white pigment, was used for the wall facings.
Perfecting the tint itself posed a particular problem. But tenacity paid off.
Simon Morgan, Sector Manager for Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire, Lafarge Aggregates, said:
"We went through 18 months of trials with various mixtures until we had a colour the architect was satisfied with.
"The idea was to have a building full of light and space and the walls needed to be bright and to reflect the natural daylight streaming through roof lights and windows.
"I think what went in our favour, apart from our product obviously, was our ability to offer consistency, our level of control and our determination to succeed."
A total of 4800m3 structural concrete and 3500m3 of waterproof concrete was used alongside the 2100m3 of Artevia.
Concrete sub-contractors Whelan and Grant employed innovative pouring techniques, casting in-situ, to ensure surfaces were virtually seamless — again part of the architect's vision for space and clean lines — linked to the concept of integration between building and landscape.
Simon said:"I have never been to a site as intricate and it is amazing what has been done with our material.It really is quite an amazing building."
The centre will eventually house 120 scientists supported by more than 30 additional staff, studying plant development.
Lafarge Aggregates & Concrete UK - UK Head Office
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